′Afghans must determine own future′ | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 03.03.2012
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'Afghans must determine own future'

Attacks on US and ISAF forces in Afghanistan followed a controversy sparked by the burning of several copies of the Koran. Tom Koenigs, a former UN representative in Afghanistan, reflects on security in Afghanistan.

Tom Koenigs is a former Special Representative to Afghanistan with the United Nations. Koenigs spoke with DW about Afghanistan's future and missteps in security strategies employed in the past.

DW: Two American military advisors were just killed in Kabul at the Department of the Interior - one of the most secure places in Afghanistan. Given your experience in Afghanistan, could you have imagined this occurring?

Tom Koenigs: Such things do happen, and when it comes to suicide attackers, there is no protection.

Not even in the Department of the Interior?

Not even there, which is unfortunate. I think that aspect is being exaggerated - anyone who is in Afghanistan is in a certain sense in danger.

Can there be security at all in Afghanistan?

Afghanistan is an unsafe place where a war is taking place. There will be attacks and suicide bombings. But there are also many areas where people can live safely, and there are also institutions that function well. So we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Particularly after copies of the Koran were burned, the series of attacks has created the impression that the entire western security strategy has failed. Is that an exaggeration?

I do consider that an exaggeration. Certainly there should have been an earlier investment in massive police training, and people relied on the military strategy much too long. I think it's the right move to shift some of the responsibility to Afghanistan's security forces.

Very close cooperation with Afghan security forces now exists. But recently we have seen this terrible phenomenon where one of the ostensible allies turns against the team and murders people. Germans have been killed, as have Americans and French individuals. Is the concept of working closely together a failure?

The concept of working closely with and training Afghans is appropriate. But it's also clear that there are dangers in doing so. Again I would say that it would have been better to start training Afghan forces earlier because they have to bear the responsibility themselves.

Beggars in Afghanistan outside of a temple

Afghan citizens continue to face an uncertain future

Originally the International Security Assistance Force came as liberators. When did that change - when did they become occupiers?

We didn't see that we could only work freely there for a very limited period of time. That was from 2001 to 2006 - five years, mind you. But we basically gave that time away. And the chances we missed then can hardly be recovered now. If someone had said at the start that we would be there for ten years but must be finished by then, then we would likely have come further with the mission.

Now everyone has seen that Afghanistan cannot be liberated using military force, so a political solution is now preferred. What could a political solution in Afghanistan look like?

The future of Afghanistan lies in the hands of its citizens. Fundamentalists are definitely still around, and liberal forces need to be supported. But is the Afghans themselves who will have to make the real decision.

What role will the Taliban play in Afghanistan without the ISAF?

The Taliban will continue to take on as many forms as it always has. Hopefully there will be a legitimate political force that holds to the constitution, that respects the power of the state and that can stand up to the supporters of violence. Democratic forces are going to need support.

Will Hamid Karzai play a role?

Karzai's time in office concludes in 2014. Then, some political change will be good.

Will Afghanistan be a tribal republic after 2014?

I think the times of tribal rule are at an end throughout the world. There are some areas exceptions in remote areas where tribes still play a significant role, but I don't believe that they will increase their power. I hope that democratic structures gradually take hold locally as well.

Interview: Alexander Kudascheff / gsw
Editor: Andrea Rönsberg

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